As we’re starting to see more representation of curly and textured hairstyles on the runways, the fact remains that there continues to be a gap in curly and textured hair education in Canada. We spoke with experts for their tips on working with all types of curls and how to expand your skill set.
As more stylists are advocating for additional training on working with curly and textured hair, it’s a skill set that many have had to learn on their own.
“Beauty school taught me how to mainly work with Caucasian hair and didn’t teach much about Afro and coily hair other than how to identify it,” says T’kehya Prentice-Cupid, an Oligo Professionnel sponsored artist and textured hair expert. “I wanted to push diversity within the hair industry so I thought that working at a multicultural or a euro-centric salon would help but I didn’t feel like I fit in there, so I gained and built my skills over time.”
As more clients are embracing their natural hair texture and curl patterns, it’s important for stylists to expand their skill sets to be able to work with as many hair types as possible.
A Cut Above
When working with curly and textured hair in the salon, Prentice-Cupid says it’s important to treat the hair with love and not be intimidated by it. “For the majority of the hairdressers I’ve seen, there’s a fear of working with curls and coils,” she says. “Spending time working with models with textures before working with clients will help build the stylist’s skills and confidence.”
When working with curly-haired clients, a thorough consultation is important in helping stylists understand their client’s unique hair needs. “Curly, textured hair can be very delicate,” says Yvette Mitchell, a textured hair expert and owner of Yves Salon in Edmonton. “You need to know your client’s lifestyle. Ask questions to find out what they like and don’t like to do with their hair.”
When cutting curly and textured hair, most experts agree that cutting the hair while it’s dry and in its natural state is preferred. “Textured hair shrinks up to 90 per cent of its length sometimes, so when you can see the curls in their max elongation and shape, that can help stylists cut the hair and be confident that the cut will hold up as the client’s hair changes, shrinks and expands throughout the week,” says Prentice- Cupid. “There are techniques some stylists use that don’t factor in that the client may also want to straighten their hair, so it should be even. I always encourage stylists to check the perimeter and make sure that it’s levelled and the layers are balanced.”
“If the client wears their hair curly most of the time, stylists need to dry-cut to see the curl pattern, if they wear their hair straight, then you would cut the hair wet, adds Krista Leavitt, owner of Curl Specialist in New Brunswick. “I cut the hair right after the consultation before I wash and blow-dry it because when you wet curly hair and pull it down, you can’t see the curl pattern.”
Stylists should also consider the elevation when cutting curls. “For curlier hair, I wouldn’t go above 45 degrees elevation,” says Leavitt. “After wash day, curls (especially tighter coils) can appear to be longer and more elongated but after a few days, the hair starts to shrink, which is why it’s crucial to cut tighter curl patterns at a lower elevation.”
“Work with smaller sections,” adds Mitchell. “When stylists work with bigger sections, they could just be cutting the hair on the surface so it won’t be all at the same length.”
Mitchell also factors in the changes in texture when cutting hair. “I like to have my clients shake their hair after cutting,” she says. “Sometimes there are different textures in the curls and the stylist may have missed a spot, so when the client shakes their hair, you can see the excess hair that still needs to be cut.”
“MAINTENANCE IS KEY SO I ALWAYS ENCOURAGE MY CLIENTS TO COME BACK EVERY THREE TO FOUR MONTHS. TEXTURED HAIR TENDS TO GET DRIED OUT EASILY SO COMING BACK REGULARLY TO GET THE ENDS TRIMMED IS ENCOURAGED.”
— KIM GABRIEL, CURLY HAIR SPECIALIST AND OWNER OF BORN CURLY BY KIM GABRIEL HAIR SALON, TORONTO
Slow and Steady
When lightening or colouring curly and textured hair, a consultation is also important to not only understand your client’s curl pattern but also their hair history.
“Sometimes the hair is not in a good state for colouring,” says Kim Gabriel, a curly hair specialist and owner of Born Curly by Kim Gabriel Hair Salon in Toronto. “In that case, I would ask the client to come in for treatments before we start lightening their hair.”
According to Leavitt, keeping the colour as natural as possible is best when colouring curls since the lighter the highlights are, the more damage is done to the curls. “Any hair colour done will affect the curl patterns so it’s better to pick out individual curls and do a balayage instead of foiling,” says Leavitt. “When applying balayage, freehand painting is a better and safer way.”
Taking it slow and not pushing the hair too far will help reduce the damage and dryness that usually comes when colouring or lightening hair. “As versatile as curls and coils are, they’re one of the most fragile textures, so you don’t want to start with 20-volume on a virgin hair client. You may want to even skip the foils altogether,” says Prentice-Cupid. “I’ve successfully lightened textured hair with clay lightener or even a cling wrap and a standard lightener so it can reach high levels without doing too much.”
Handle with Care
When it’s time to style curly and textured hair, Prentice-Cupid says it’s important to stay within your client’s comfort level. “I encourage stylists to listen to their clients to understand their preference, and to always ask for photos,” she says. “Clients with curly and textured hair know a lot about their hair types so find out what their regimen and go-to hairstyles are.”
According to Leavitt, one of the most common mistakes that stylists make is touching the hair while they diffuse it. “For less frizz and longer-lasting curls, I would suggest stylists not scrunch the hair while diffusing it,” she says. “This will also help crystallize the products you apply on curls.”
While stylists (and clients) will often reach for oils to hydrate the hair, it’s important to remember that water is the number one source of moisture for curls. “Using hydrating products and adding back that moisture into the hair is crucial,” says Prentice-Cupid. “To boost hydration, use a standard spray bottle and fill it up with 90 per cent water and 10 per cent conditioner to moisture the hair daily.”
“I would use gels instead of creams to make the curls last longer,” adds Leavitt. “Creams can last one day but gels change the shape of the curl pattern and lock the curl into place for several days.”
“When the hair is dry, I like using a carbon pick (a type of comb used to fluff curls and create volume in curly and textured hair) to pluck the hair and a lightweight serum to separate the curls,” says Gabriel. “Using a light conditioner on the hair beforehand will make the styling process run smoother. I also love to apply the products in sections while the hair is wet. This will guarantee the products are well distributed.”
It’s also critical to remember when to apply products to curly hair since it can also change the outcome of your client’s results. “Apply all products on soaking wet hair and then remove the excess water,” says Leavitt. “This will ensure that the curls are more defined and less frizzy.”
AVOID USING FINE-TOOTHED COMBS AND REGULAR TOWELS, WHICH CAN MAKE THE HAIR FRIZZIER. INSTEAD, OPT FOR WIDER-TOOTHED COMBS AND A MICROFIBRE TOWEL TO DRY THE HAIR.
Along with knowing how to cut, style and care for textured hair, stylists should also factor in the client’s hair density. “A client with a higher density of hair can use more styling product than someone with low-density hair,” says Leavitt. “Usually, lower density clients are looking for more volume and body so when choosing styling products, you may want to use foams and mouses. High-density hair clients are looking for some control and definition to reduce the bulk of their hair so you would lean more towards gels and creams.”
“To get more volume in low-density hair, using fewer products and a diffuser would help give them that volume and fullness they’re looking for,” says Gabriel. “For higher density clients, I would style their hair in smaller sections and let their hair air dry.”
When cutting the hair, stylists will want to adjust their technique depending on the curl type and hair density. “Take your time and comb out the hair to see what you need to cut,” says Mitchell. “Work in smaller sections to ensure all the hair is done, especially when using hot tools. This will make the hair last longer. And finally, teach the clients what they need to be doing at home to maintain the hair.”
When using hot styling tools, it’s important to be gentle and use lower- heat settings to ensure you’re not damaging the hair. “Invest in your tools,” says Mitchell. “You get what you pay for so invest in a good quality blow-dryer and diffuser.”
“UNDERSTANDING THATYOUR HANDS ARE YOUR FIRST TOOL WHEN WORKING WITH TEXTURED HAIR IS VERY IMPORTANT.”
– YVETTE MITCHELL, TEXTURED HAIR EXPERT AND OWNER OF YVES SALON, EDMONTON
Filling the Gap
The lack of training and education available on Black and textured hair in Canada has forced more stylists to resort to learning these techniques on their own or from other stylists that have developed their own skill sets.
For Prentice-Cupid, she took it upon herself to develop Textured Hair Education, a curriculum focused on bringing textured hair education into beauty schools across Canada. “I remember reaching out to stylists and asking them what their experience was like [in beauty school] and whether they learned how to care for textured hair and 99 per cent of them said they were never taught it or they didn’t have adequate training,” she says. “Nobody was doing the diversity work so I took it upon myself to create a platform to potentially build Canada’s first curriculum for textured and curly hair.”
“It’s really important to have hands-on experience,” says Gabriel. “You have to experience curly and textured hair, you have to get in there and feel it because there’s a big difference between the porosities and densities.”
Leavitt also offers online curl courses and virtual coaching to educate and train stylists who are interested in learning how to work with curls. One of her courses is focused on building the foundation of cutting and styling curly hair, while another offers specific training on working with wavy hair, low density and fine hair types. “I will be offering one-on-one services this fall where stylists would come in to the salon and spend a few days with me working on clients and models,” says Leavitt. “I’ll also teach them about the different curl types and the techniques I use.”
While it’s important for stylists to have the required training, clients should also be educated on how they can maintain their curls at home. “I offer training for my clients where they would come in with their hair products and I’ll show them how to apply them. I also teach them about their hair porosity and how to style their hair,” says Gabriel. “I’m also working to put together a class for stylists to learn all of this as well.”
For hairstylists who have minimal experience with textured hair but are interested in learning more, patience and practice are key. “It takes time to really understand and get the knowledge,” says Gabriel. “You need to get the basics right, get out there and be confident enough to get behind someone with curly hair and do it. And you will make mistakes before you get comfortable doing what you do.”
Reaching out to textured hair experts and stylists is also beneficial. “Don’t be shy to ask,” says Mitchell. “Reach out and spend time with stylists to watch and learn what they do.”
If you’re looking for more diverse and inclusive education and training, Mitchell suggests reaching out to salons. “Find yourself a multicultural salon that can work or volunteer in to get some of that knowledge and training.”
Social media platforms like Instagram can also be a great tool to seek out diverse education. “Follow stylists that resonate with you and see if they offer courses or private training,” says Prentice-Cupid. “Look out for that diverse content because it’s there but not on the surface.”
“IF YOU WANT TO BE A STYLIST THAT SERVES A WIDE VARIETY OF CLIENTS, THEN YOU NEED TO TAKE SOME EXTRA TRAINING. IF YOU’RE SERIOUS ABOUT HAIRDRESSING, THEN YOU HAVE TO PUT THE TIME AND FINANCIAL INVESTMENT INTO YOUR EDUCATION.”
— KRISTA LEAVITT, OWNER OF CURL SPECIALIST IN NEW BRUNSWICK